Best Opponents for Georges St-Pierre After Win over Nick Diaz at UFC 158
Like the last 11 challengers that have stepped in the Octagon with him, Nick Diaz was no match for Georges St-Pierre at UFC 158. The victory was just another stellar chapter in the Book of Georges, but it also leaves open many possibilities for what is to come.
One of the drawbacks to having a champion as dominant as a St-Pierre or Anderson Silva or Jon Jones is eventually you run out of challengers you are able to build a fight around. Diaz was perfect for St-Pierre because he is going to talk to anyone who will listen, and he has the resume to back it up.
So as St-Pierre and Dana White look ahead, here are the best opponents for the welterweight champion to consider fighting next.
Note: We are doing most-likely challengers, not dream scenarios, so you will not see Anderson Silva on this list because, like Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather, until the fight is signed and officially booked, I will continue to say it's never going to happen.
Top contender: Johny Hendricks (15-1, 8 KO, 1 Submission, 6 Dec.)
If you go by the official UFC fighter rankings, not to mention White's statements before UFC 158 that the winner of thee Hendricks-Carlos Condit fight would be the No. 1 contender, Hendricks is the obvious choice.
It also helps Hendricks' case that in his victory over Condit was a spectacular showcase for both men, earning Fight of the Night honors, and made Hendricks into a much bigger star than he was going in.
Hendricks has built up the resume, paid his dues and now has a victory over the fighter UFC had ranked No. 2 in the division--just behind St-Pierre and Hendricks.
Another factor working his Hendricks' favor is that he has never fought St-Pierre. Getting a new fresh challenger in the Octagon with the champion is a way get fans excited, because they don't know how his style will work with St-Pierre's.
Perhaps Hendricks can be the one to stop St-Pierre's nearly-five-year undefeated streak.
Dark-horse candidate: Rory MacDonald (14-1, 6 KO, 6 Submissions, 2 Dec.)
The biggest hurdle standing in the way of this fight is friendship. As ridiculous as that sounds in a combat sport, everyone knows that St-Pierre and MacDonald are training partners and don't want to fight each other.
In fact, MacDonald has been quoted as saying that he won't fight St-Pierre because he doesn't want to "backstab him." This is the only sport where you would cut yourself off from a championship in exchange for friendship.
Besides the fact that the two seem reluctant to do battle right now, MacDonald still might need one or two more wins to cement his status as a true title contender.
He was supposed to fight Carlos Condit, the only man to defeat MacDonald, at UFC 158, but a neck injury forced him off the card and opened the door for Hendricks, who was on the card already and fighting Jake Ellenberger, to swoop in and become the No. 1 contender.
Wild-card challenger: Demian Maia (18-4, 3 KO, 9 Submissions, 6 Dec.)
Maia's career hit a dead end as a middleweight after a loss to Chris Weidman in early 2012, even so he, along with UFC management, made the decision to move down to welterweight starting with his fight against Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 148.
Three fights and three victories later, Maia's move looks brilliant in hindsight. Not only does he appear to be more agile with the extra weight taken off, but he is one of the bigger welterweights in the division and that has helped his striking improve exponentially.
Already regarded as one of the best submission artists in UFC history, Maia's new-found power has helped transform him into one of the most complete fighters in the company today. He is at least two wins away from a title shot, but if an injury comes up and UFC needs a replacement, it could do a lot worse than Maia.